My rage carried me into the heart of the fire and my despair kept me there. Southallow burned, its residents fled – hopefully – and only their remains, like the remains of my life, were turning into to ash. I sat on the edge of the well and looked into the steam rising from below. My protective globe of wind kept the fire at bay. I didn’t marvel at this ability, although I probably should have. It came naturally, like breathing or reading, or perhaps cooking. All things I enjoyed.
Guilt sunk its needle teeth into my gut. My child had died and I couldn’t save him. My wife, whom I must have loved at some point, I turned away from – leaving her vulnerable and alone. No wonder she cheated on me. Torgood the talker; I hoped they put him back in jail after this – or made him a part of the gang that had to rebuild everything. Granted I figured out how to end the fire.
Did I want to end the fire?
Immolation for my sins seemed like a good escape from the painful thoughts in my mind.
My wind globe faltered and the heat took my breath away. I looked up to see the fire elemental, now grown to the size of a house, hovering before me.
It wanted me. I thought of my five-year-old son, a small child who had gray eyes like mine and nut-brown hair like Jeslynn’s. He’d come down with one of those illnesses that children did and Tiria – oh gods Tiria – had confined him to his bedroom so that he wouldn’t get the entire pack of village kids sick. He’d wanted a horse, so I had Woodsman Arne carve him one. Jeslynn, her brother Som and his wife Dasta, and I made little horses of our own out of sticks and twine and played with him on a rainy afternoon.
Tiria, the village midwife and healer. No one had mentioned that at her funeral. Weather gods take me; Jeslynn had the right of it – I am an ass. Guilt finished eating a hole through my stomach.
I asked the wind to stop and stood up, facing the monster. It gave a crackling growl.
How could I save a town when I couldn’t save my son?
I opened my arms, inviting it to take me. It gave a little bounce and then engulfed me. At first, the heat and pain equaled my inner turmoil but then eclipsed it. My hair burned away and my skin blistered. My eyes went blind. The only sound I heard was my blood boiling.
And then quiet.